June 30, 2014

Recently the Titan Arum ( Amonphophallus  titanum) plant bloomed at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  Originally  from the Island  of Sumatra, a part of Indonesia, these plants bloom infrequently and when they do bloom, it only lasts approximately 24 hours.   If  I understood correctly, the last time this particular plant bloomed at the Gardens  was in 2012.   Since the bloom  is open only for a short time, the Gardens  remained open until 2:00 am the day of the bloom  for anyone interested in seeing   and smelling   this rarity.  I arrived about 8:00PM  and stood in line for about an hour.   When I left, the line was even longer so the plant definitely brings  in the curiosity seekers.

Did I mention the smell???  It isn’t  nick named the Corpse Flower for nothing.   As I stood in line, there was definitely a stinky odor  and the closer I got to the plant, the worse it got.  When I finally had my turn to stand in front of it,  the stench  was nauseatingly  horrible.

As I learned from my visit,  the spadix ( the thing that is sticking up in the middle)  releases this stinky odor to attract pollinators. Interestingly,  the tip of the  spadix  is also  approximately human body temperature, which helps the odor  volatilize and  attract  the pollinators also.

Now I can obviously show you the photos I took but I also wanted to do my best to share with you the smell.   So if you can  imagine this….

According to Wikipedia, the America Chemical Society and Cornell University did an analysis of chemicals released by the spadix .  It showed  the  “stench” includes chemicals similar to the smell of  limberger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks,  a sweet floral scent,  Chloraseptic and mothballs all rolled into one.   Now, aren’t you sorry you missed it?


Thanks for reading!






4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maureen Mahach
    Jul 18, 2014 @ 14:30:46

    I always read your emails, but somehow missed this one until today. Roselen and I visited the Corpse Flower at 6:00 p.m. that day. It had opened up, but there was no line yet so we were able to visit it and talk with the horticulturists for about a half hour. The stench was not rip-roaring yet, but smelled enough to give us the general idea. Flies were already beginning to swarm around it. I took several photos as well.




  2. Amy Weisser
    Jul 05, 2014 @ 07:10:42

    WHEW! Thank you for being brave enough to go and then share with us—this is something I don ‘t mind missing in person. I’ve been wondering how long it would be before you got that camera out and posted to JTA—–I miss it when you don’t!



  3. Dane Dodson
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 15:22:06

    Jeannie, This was great! Another friend of mine also went to see it and agreed with you about the smell…but your description is fantastic. Thanks for taking all your followers to see that rare plant.



  4. Judith Ludwig
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 15:06:15

    I read about it and thought you probably would attempt taking the wiff! I had a boyfriend whose shoes stunk to high heaven. We could not get rid of the smell threw them outside and still could smell them. It wasn’t until his mother found some charcoal inserts for his shoes that we all were saved! Thanks for the description and not sorry I missed it! 🙂 Judy



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